NJ’s environment will be cleaner in 2022 with infrastructure deal: EPA

The site where the Diamond Head Oil Refinery once stood in Kearny has been contaminated since at least the late 1970s with toxic metals and dangerous chemicals.

For the past 36 years, no action has yet been taken to clean up the contaminants, as federal money for cleanup dried up.   

That will change after the New Year, as an infusion of federal money into the national Superfund program launches cleanup efforts at the former refinery site as well as six others across New Jersey where remediation stalled.

In November, President Joe Biden signed legislation under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal that will reinstate taxes on the sale of certain chemicals and renew a source of money for the nation’s Superfund program, a project launched in 1980 that has paid to clean up toxic sites across the United States for decades.

Work being performed at the Vineland Chemical Co. Superfund site in 2011.

In New Jersey, the Superfund money will go to cleanup projects not just at the Diamond Head Oil Refinery site in Kearny, but also the former Kil-Tone Company site in Vineland, a chromium groundwater plume in Garfield, a five-acre Kauffman & Minteer Inc. site in the Jobstown section of Springfield Township, the Roebling Steel Co. property in Florence Township, the Unimatic Manufacturing site in Fairfield, and the White Chemical Corp. site in Newark.

For years, the Garden State has carried the stigma of having the most Superfund sites in the nation.

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It’s a legacy that Lisa Garcia, the newly appointed administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 2, which includes New Jersey, wants to change.

Lisa F. Garcia is the newly appointed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 2, which includes New Jersey.

“New Jersey does still have 114 Superfund sites,” said Garcia. “It’s good to know that some of them are cleaned up.”

New Jersey’s industrial past and prominence in the nation’s chemical manufacturing sector through the 20th century — combined with lax pollution controls and illegal dumping — sealed the state’s fate as a leader in Superfund sites. 

A turnabout began in the 1970s, a time of increased environmental awareness and activism. Stricter federal and state regulations on chemical dumping and disposal were adopted, beginning with the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976.

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